We are about to find out what our first eurovision song of the 2021 season will be. Albania is, as per usual, the first in line to host their national final. The first semi final is scheduled to take place this Monday, 21st of December, with the second one scheduled the day after. We don’t know yet how the what semi-final’s are exactly going to happen but it is time to review all of the participating songs. So here is what our team thinks of the first 13 songs (in alphabetical order)!

 

Everything is still very much in the air whether all the dates can go on as planned or not. This year’s Fest will be organized in an open-air venue in Tirana. This is mainly done because of the current pandemic to make sure spreading of the virus will be lessened. However this also comes with some complications. The competition is very weather dependant and even though right now it is looking like the planned dates will be dry, nothing is as changeable as the weather so we can never be sure. Therefore they planned a full period in which they can hold the competition in case the weather turns out worse than expected. With all that being said, we have written the reviews on this year’s songs!

Before we get into them, a little disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

Our panel this time consists of: Boris, Connor, James, Melanie, Roy and Sean!

 

Agim Poshka – Vendi im

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij7N6oKcFjQ[/embedyt]

Boris – 7.5 – “An interesting song, but (as is wont to happen with FiK entries) a bit too slow for its own good. Still, I’ve got good vibes from this. The intro sounds like an extended “Blinding Lights” before it meanders into solid midtempo folk ballad territory (anything that makes me think of The Weeknd = solid plus). Incidentally, I also appreciate songs that manage to conjure up entire landscapes with sheer music. This song *feels* like an eagle soaring above the mountains. Just close your eyes and let your imagination do the rest. I like it, but I would have liked it more if had more beats per minute.”

Connor – 7 – “So I feel as if I might be the only person that is deeply into this entry, and I think it’s because it’s SO different from the rest of the line-up. It has a deep Middle Eastern sound to it, and the use of instruments is just perfect. That said, the only thing I don’t particularly like is the second chorus with the guitar line, it just feels a bit muddled and disjointed. I look forward to seeing this live, I think this could be a fun performance!”

James – 7 – “2020 was by most accounts a bad year, so extra points go to “Vendi im” for sounding like a song far removed from this year. “Vendi im,” I believe, translates to “My Place,” and this warm, inviting song certainly carries you to a Middle Eastern lounge with its woodwind instrumentation. The rock guitar pinning it to the West is a bit of a cliché by the adult contemporary standards of the 1990s, but it’s deftly deployed. This is an entry that will benefit from the FiK orchestra treatment the most, but the improvement will probably not be enough to carry this old-fashioned ballad victory.”

Melanie – 4 – “So I’m really loving the long intro of this song. They really used amazing
instrumentals in it to create a vibe from the very first moment this song starts. But at
1:16 the first verse kicks in and he completely loose me. It sounds like something
what I heard before at my holidays to the Mediterranean Sea. I’m kinda sad that they
killed the vibe they created in the intro with an old-fashioned song. If they somehow
can bring the instrumentals from the intro back in the whole song, it would be higher
in my ranking, but for now I won’t see this winning Festivali I Kenges 59.”

Roy – 3.5 – “Agim’s voice is really interesting. It isn’t an easy one to work with and therefore it makes sense that this piece lacks some energy. This is okay, but overall this piece is just very lacking. The electric guitars are welcome, but don’t add much depth to the song. You can hear that this song was written with performing at the festival in mind! It is very reliant on moments where the orchestra/instruments can shine. Overall the song Is just too repetitive and mediocre in the end to do well..”

Sean – 7 – “This is lovely! I get a real Bosnia and Herzegovina vibe at their peak power (Lejla, Bistra Voda) from this one but with a bit of a rock touch to it also. I almost wish they’d keep it more in the Balkan ballad vein as the instrumentation is beautiful, but I’d also be interested in seeing the power this would have in a 3 minute version. Lots to work with on this one.”

Total = 36 (avg. 6.0)

Anxhela Peristeri – Karma

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wax5TiT7sDQ[/embedyt]

Boris – 8.5 – “A bombastic drama ballad, the sort that, if pulled off well live, will have heads turning so quickly it’ll cause the entire nation of Albania to see a chiropractor on Christmas eve. Now watch the notoriously geriatric FiK jury cripple her for showing too much leg or tit.”

Connor – 8.5 – “Okay, so this one is such a superb entry for FiK, hands down. It’s really interesting because this sounds like it was actually in the Kenga Magjike festival and won. I think this has potential to be a real show stopper live, but it will come down to the live vocals and overall staging. Should this song win it really only needs a few tweaks, which is just to make the track more impactful and powerful but overall Anxela is a threat this year.”

James – 6 – “The last minute and a half is a great stretch of bombast. Just a pity about the first half of the song, which kicks off aggressively and then just grinds to a halt. “Karma” has a solid ending with some great strings and percussion, and some great singing from Anxhela, but the build-up in the first two verses is a bit sedate and uneven. The first few seconds promise fireworks at the end, and they do eventually deliver, but I find myself wandering on the way there. A rework with some ratcheting up of the strings or woodwinds a little earlier would make for a better-paced ballad that Anxhela deserves.”

Melanie – 6.5 – “The song begins with a heavy, rocky, start that slowly flows in Anxhela’s soothing voice. It’s building nicely due the fact that they use a flute and piano in the start and then slowly brings drums, guitar and other instruments to the song. The progression in this song is just amazing how it changes from that heavenly start to the rockier end. Unfortunately, when the song ends, I don’t feel completely satisfied. I’m just missing something that keeps me interested in this song. I hope that Anxhela Peristeri can bring me that in her stageshow, because there are great elements in this song. But it’s just missing that memorable moment.”

Roy – 5.5 – “What a way to open your song. This will be 1 of the songs that will benefit the most from performing live. The attention is grabbed early on and kept by its mysterious progression. The unfortunate thing is that it gets kicked into the next gear a bit too late for my liking and when it does, it should have exploded even more than it does now. In FiK it could totally work, but at Eurovision you will have lost a lot of people’s attention. Anxhela’s voice definitely shines however and you have got to applaud her for taking a risk!”

Sean – 6 – “Some unfulfilled potential from “Karma” for me. Is it trying to be a pop banger? Is it trying to be a ballad? Is it trying to be an angsty, rock-driven piece of emotion? Ultimately it doesn’t grab my attention for any of the right reasons and feels a bit messy. If you can streamline it a bit more then it may drastically improve in my rankings!”

Total = 41 (Avg. 6.8)

 

Devis Xherahu – Peng

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PrpOZPGDko[/embedyt]

Boris – 5 – “In his cast picture, Devis holds up his arms in prayer. Perhaps he should’ve prayed for a song that isn’t this boring…x”

Connor – 6 – “Every year we get an Albanian ballad in FiK, or a few rather, and honestly this isn’t that bad. I really appreciate the pan flute sounds that are strung throughout the track, and I actually wish they showed up more! It gives the track a lot of character. Overall the song doesn’t really go anywhere but Devis has a great vocal and could pull off a convincing live performance. I don’t see this one winning though.”

James – 7.5 – “Devis is back and he doesn’t care what you think about his slick, Eastern European reformed bad boy leather jacket bound crooner in his 40’s schtick. “Peng” is a simple ballad, a minimal canvas with some acoustic guitar noodling, some woodwind effects and little else as this is meant purely for Devis to showcase his voice and strut his stuff. This is not Devis’s best, but for variety’s sake it is great to have an old-fashioned singer showcasing his craft even if he’s unlikely to win. Additionally, it is a bonus to see Albanian masculinity redeemed through the likes of Devis, especially since it took such a knock with Florian Sukaj’s petulant rants and futile attacks on Range Rover rear window wipers in the 90 Day Fiance spin-off Darcey and Stacey earlier this year.”

Melanie – 4,5 – “Peng doesn’t need a lot of Bang to stand out in the bunch. Its strength lies in the simplicity of the song. It’s a beautiful small guitar song that give me romantic Mediterranean summer nights. I really like this song, but I’m not loving it. There’s nothing to hate on, but it’s not special enough for me to put it in my personal playlist for example. It’s just simple and great, but not amazing.”

Roy – 4 – “Devis’ voice is the driving force behind this acoustically driven song! I will give him that he definitely keeps me listening closely being curious where it will go next. Unfortunately, in the end the song leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I had hoped for it to be a bit more out there and complete. It isn’t super memorable as it is and that is unfortunate..”

Sean – 5.5 – “Nice ethnic elements but it just feels a little bit like a song you’d hear softly whispering out of the speakers in the corner of a fancy Italian restaurant. “Peng” is very pretty and Devis has a pleasant vocal, yet it’s not really one I feel I can actively listen to.”

Total = 32.5 (Avg. 5.4)

 

Enxhi Nasufi – Njësoj

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIt-GkvtAnY[/embedyt]

Boris – 8 – “A solid Gaypop anthem. *BorisBubbles seal of Approval*”

Connor – 8 – “From the moment this song starts I absolutely love it. In fact, this is probably one of the most non-albanian sounding songs in the FiK lineup which could create two scenarios – the Albanian jury tank this for being too Western, or it has a lot of international appeal as a radio friendly, Albanian-funk track. Either way I feel that the track needs some work and is a bit lacking. Definitely a good album track though, and an enjoyable listen!”

James – 7.5 – “Enxhi brings some 2010’s sounds to FiK with this pop-funk party anthem. She could do with some help with her English vocals, as her “every day” and “every night” could do with sounding a bit punchier, like the exclamation marks they’re meant to be. One downside is that we’re at the tail-end of this sort of funk-lite sound even at an event like Eurovision where trends can lag, and this composition doesn’t really stand out from that pack. As of now, this is a fun but forgettable number. A few tweaks such as vocals and amping up the horns at the bridge could give it the hook the song needs to go anywhere.”

Melanie – 5.5 – “This probably would sound weird, but somehow It reminded me of a toned-down version of Sandhja’s Sing it Away (Finland 2016). It’s a very pleasant pop song that I wouldn’t expect to see at Festivali I Kenges. That’s also the big problem what I have with this song. It just felt like a rejected retro pop song from an American popstar in the 90’s. I don’t mind this song and it makes my head bops along with it, but I’m just looking for something more refreshing and authentic than Njesoj.”

Roy – 5 – “This song desperately tries to be groovy and tries to fall back on the pop-trend in modern music of adding some disco-flavour. The idea is good, but in execution it just feels a bit empty and it isn’t the memorable piece they wanted it to be. Vocally it isn’t as much of a showcase either compared to the other songs so I fear that this song may struggle a lot within the competition.”

Sean – 8 – “While it feels very retro, the disco revival is running strong in Western Europe at least, so I can see this one being very popular. Dua Lipa meets Purple Disco Machine in “Njësoj”, giving us an infectious slice of 70s nostalgia that puts a smile on my face and a tap in my feet!”

Total = 42 (Avg. 7.0)

 

Era Rusi – Zjarri im

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft-L_mIfoYc[/embedyt]

Boris – 8.5 – “OMFG a fierce hiphop queen, incessantly name-dropping herself in a percussion-heavy debacle of a song <3 Be still my Sirk-loving heart.”

Connor – 7 – “There are elements about this entry that I like, but there also some things that I don’t fully enjoy. I feel as if this will sound better live because Era can give it more personality and character, but in the full line up it doesn’t stick out as THE song. Knowing Era this will be a memorable performance, but I have doubts about this song giving her the Eurovision ticket.”

James – 8 – “This is what the ESC fans call an “ethno-bop,” and it largely succeeds even if the heavy bass and percussion clashing with traditional instrumentation, along with the early heavy breathing, aye yay yay and deep voiced dude proclaiming “light my fire,” push it to the verge of goofiness. Towards the end it becomes a little busy, with random guys mumbling in the background being particular distractions, but it’s a solid entry and fulfills 100% the expectation of what a Eurovision fan wants out an Albanian song.”

Melanie – 8.5 – “Ok Albania, let’s be honest to each other once. It’s time for you to stop sending the “big female drama ballads” and let’s just try something else. 2021 is the year for change and Era Rusi is going to be your pioneer in this big change. Zjarri Im is everything what I’m looking for in an Albanian entry. It sounds experimental, wild, danceable, contemporary and it has a lot of personality. It’s giving me the same feels as Wild Dances gave me back in the days and was also the start of my big Eurovision passion. Zjarri Im is so different from the songs that are popular right now, that it definitely will stand out. It’s also the only song that I remembered after my first listen of al FiK songs. I’m hoping that after her win, the song will be giving some more body and made it even more bombastic, but this one is definitely my winner of this National Final.”

Roy – 6 – “This song confuses me on multiple levels. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. The biggest underlying issue for me is the lack of a good post-production. All elements are a bit cloudy and none really jump out a lot. It will definitely be a memorable piece and it is really open for a lot of staging potential. I am very uncertain how this would do in Eurovision and I fear it may be a bit too disjointed and Frankenstein-y for a lot of casual listeners and juries.”

Sean – 8 – “BANGER ALERT! It’s time to party! I’m here for this – Albania’s ethnopop and dance hopefuls often flatter to deceive but this is full of energy and power and could be just the tonic Europe needs after a tough year! One of my surprise favourites in this selection!”

Total = 46 (Avg. 7.7)

 

Erik Lloshi – Jo

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bsXwxXZzhA[/embedyt]

Boris – 7 – “Is it just me or is this FiK really *heavy* on the orchestral percussion? Love it though. “Jo” is good, I lack the words to really explain why it is. It’s dramatic, not boring, possesses a near-evangelical gravitas. Maybe because it’s outclassed by other entries?  If only Erik had the dramatic hip-swaying panache of a sultry long-haired diva.”

Connor – 5 – “There’s an interesting sound to this one since it has a very modern instrumental behind it with a lot of reverb and echo effects to give it some oomph. This song goes through a lot of changes and developments throughout the 3 minutes, but overall it’s just okay. Something I would listen to causally, but nothing that could wow me on the Eurovision stage. Maybe the live will change my mind?”

James – 5 – “Apparently “jo” means “no,” so for American Literature fans, could this be an homage to Louisa May Alcott’s stubborn and fierily independent protagonist Jo March from Little Women? Not likely, but March’s deployment of the word “no” is meant a call of defiance in late 1800s New York City, where young women such as Jo were expected to fulfil certain roles. She turns down Teddy’s marriage proposal as she was not ready to leave her support group of sisters until she made headway as a writer. Once established in New York City on her own terms, she said “yes” to a marriage proposal, and why am I rambling on about Little Women? Sorry, but “Jo” is not a particularly interesting track, with some cheap Production 101 tricks standing out along the way. Lloshi is a unique voice among this year’s male contestants, but this slow, meandering song is a “no,” or “jo,” from me.”

Melanie – 6 – “Nice melody that really drowns you in the song. Loving the bassline that you hear andthe backing vocals are giving it an extra haunting effect. The emotion in his voicereally captivates me and I really have the feeling that I’m listening to a very personalstory. So overall, I really liked the song at first listen. But then I did some backgroundresearch and found out that “Jo” was an anti-abortion song and that reallydisappointed me, because this is not something I would support. So, I’m a little bittore up about the lyrics, but still loving the musical arrangement.”

Roy – 4 – “It is soo tough to judge this song when having the meaning of the lyrics in the back of your head. Something about a man singing a song with lyrics that highly suggest in being anti-abortion sits really wrong with me.. Luckily the song itself also doesn’t stand out the most. They added some lovely details and Erik’s voice in the chorus is really strong. The little effects don’t necessarily make the overall song strong however. I just miss a few instruments here and there to make it fully properly stand out. Decently done, but I still am struggling with these lyrics..”

Sean – 5.5 – “The second half of this song is definitely more interesting than the first, but this is another entry that doesn’t quite do it for me. “Jo” has a nice build and goes through the gears in the right places, but it doesn’t roar into life like it should do for me.”

Total = 32.5 (avg. 5.4)

 

Evi Reçi – Tjerr

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X7lHazIzZQ[/embedyt]

Boris – 8 – “Another delightful entry that only Albania could come up with. Bizarre blend of Disney Villain anthem and campfire song <3 If ‘The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow’ had a theme song, ‘Tjerr’ is what I imagine it would sound like.”

Connor – 4 – “I really enjoy the vibe of this song and the stripped track that it has, it makes it stick out from the crowd a bit for being different. Evi also has a really powerful voice, but it’s not being showcased in this song. I feel like she really needed something to let her just rock out and belt – but unfortunately this is the song she got.”

James – 8 – “Okay, the KAZAKY-esque dude speaking “love” at times is goofy, but this song does slap. This is kitschy electro-pop, but “Tjerr” does deliver surprises, particularly in the transitions. The weak spot, if we can call it that in this instance, is perhaps it doesn’t hew too close to an Albanian sound as you might expect at FiK. If this is typical of Albanian sound, then Evi succeeded in making it accessible to Western ears. On the flip side, if they re-recorded this in English, I don’t think it would be as detrimental to the track as others in recent years. With some playful choreography and moves that involve spinning (“Tjerr” means “spin,” apparently), Albania could be onto something with “Tjerr.””

Melanie – 6 – “Evi is serving us a sassy pop song that color outside the lines. It’s not your typical song what you expect, but still very accessible. My body only wasn’t ready yet for the sudden tempo changes from the verse to the chorus and back. It wants to dance, but then has to stop and suddenly I can dance again, but no, I have to stop again. So that was quite confusing. They’re nice elements in it, but for now it hasn’t sold me completely. The song has huge staging potential and if it’s done right, it definitely can grow on me.”

Roy – 6.5 – “I will say this, the random voice saying “love” is a super random addition. The verses aren’t overly impressive, but there is something about the chorus that makes me like this quite a bit. It is simple, but effective at the same time. With a slight revamp, some modernization and maybe a translation this could actually make for a decent entry for Albania! It is not there yet and I will have to judge it on what it currently is, but what it could be kind of has me excited for it!”

Sean – 4.5 – “I’m really not sure how to categorise this one if I’m honest. “Tjerr” is a pleasing pop song with a semi-circus feel to it, but apart from some interesting production elements the whole thing passed by and doesn’t leave much of an impression on me.”

Total = 37 (avg. 6.2)

 

Fatos Shabani – Ty

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77s3exCfin4[/embedyt]

Boris – 6.5 – “White manbunned men with a guitar ballad are… not my thing to put it mildly, but this one isn’t *so boring* I’m immediately resisting its inclusion in this line-up. It could create A Moment during the live performance if the stars align, you know? Until then, a middling score will have to do.”

Connor – 7 – “Another song that I would listen to causally and actually quite enjoy but I don’t think it would be a good Eurovision entry. What I will say is that this is a really expertly crafted ballad with an acoustic design, it’s hard to make an acoustic song sound so mesmerizing and interesting, but they sure accomplished it here. I feel like this is one of the songs that will surprise me live, and have an impactful performance on the FiK stage.”

James – 7 – “A pleasant acoustic guitar driven ballad supplemented by strings of the ‘90s alternative rock variety, with the vocalist’s entreaties to the object of his affections going from soft in the first verse to loud and heartfelt in the outro. “Ty” would be an odd duck at Eurovision, even if Tom Dice had good luck mining this tender troubadour area a decade ago. And he has this year’s outside setting at FiK going against him, as this song would work better in a more intimate setting like a coffee shop than an outdoor stage.”

Melanie – 7.5 – “Ohh Fatos is making me miss the festival season again. I’m seeing myself standing in the big crowd, sun is going down, a drink in my hand and slowly wave along with this song. This is a great atmospheric song what Albania is bringing us and I really would love to see this kind of music on the Eurovision Stage. It just sounds so honest and sincere, like he means every word he sings. I just hope that the staging will stay true to himself and have my fingers crossed that it’s just him and his guitar.”

Roy – 9 – “My hands down favourite song of this entire selection is this beautiful little delicate ballad. This is pure magic for me and it makes me feel like a bird hovering  towards a sunset through a canyon. Just the only word to describe it is magic. Should it win? I don’t know.. I am not sure how it would do in Eurovision and maybe I want to keep this song as ‘that gem that got stuck in the national finals’. But thank you Fatos! This song makes me low-key emotional at each listen and I love it for that!”

Sean – 8.5 – “Oh this is so pretty! Albanian music has the possibility to pull on the heartstrings and this serene acoustic ballad is no different. I can see myself becoming hooked on this one, although I fear I may be alone in my thinking. Wonderful feeling about this one!”

Total = 45,5 (Avg. 7.6)

 

Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDBxB5UpXkk[/embedyt]

Boris – 5 – “The most colourful thing about this song is the outfit Festina wears in her cast pic. What a shame.”

Connor – 4 – “This song has a cool beat and vibe behind it, pairing an electro beat with an acoustic guitar – not something I hear a lot of. I would say that this song really picks up when the chorus comes in midway through and the guitar solo shows up. Everything else is just okay, nothing stands out too much here.”

James – 6.5 – “An old-fashioned ballad with some rock guitar flourishes such as the solo at the bridge, this song is gunning for both the retro and the Albanian set. It could do with a bit more “oomph,” whether it be a faster solo or more power in her wailing in the last 30 seconds, to make it more memorable. I also get the sense Festina could do a decent Bonnie Tyler but is restraining herself here. When you’re going retro, and it can work if you do, you need to be “all in.” I don’t think this is an “all in” effort.”

Melanie – 3.5 – “ Dear Festivali I Kenges, can we please stop with having the electric guitar solo in the middle of the songs? We all know you think that this would uplift a song, but it isn’t. Kush Je Ti Dashuri is a typical song what we heard before in FiK, and it just doesn’t work for Festina. It’s too slow for me to really get into it. This formula just doesn’t work for me anymore and I hope that Festina will come back in later editions with a song that shows her own personality.”

Roy – 2 – “There is something really poetic about the title of this song, yet they have done absolutely nothing to make it poetic in any form in the song. It is like this song would have written itself almost and they decided, ‘no’. As is, this song is very lacklustre in a field of songs that is really strong. The electric guitar solo is cool, but also kind of feels random and out of place in this song.. Overall just kind of a nothing song for me.”

Sean – 5 – “Breathy, emotional ballad with ethno elements? Check. Dashuri alert? Check. Overzealous use of an electric guitar after the chorus? Check. Yep, this is ticking some traditional FiK boxes alright.”

Total = 26 (Avg. 4.3)

 

Florent Abrashi – Vajzë

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBs68VcP0rM[/embedyt]

Boris – 5.5 – “4+ minutes is a lot of time and not once does this song move beyond “Sims 5 Buy_and_Sell Soundtrack”. It’s certainly not unpleasant… but definitely also not pleasant.”

Connor – 9.5 – “Call me what you want, but I am in love with this song and I’ve listened to it about 100 times since it came out last month. There’s something about this song that really sticks out and possess power and grabs your attention and I feel like it’s the Albanian subtle rock mood. I feel like if they do this right on stage, this could be a dark horse to win. Yes it would need a revamp (due to it being 4 minutes long) but there’s a lot of room for growth here. Regardless of placement I will enjoy this song months after FiK wraps up!”

James – 6.5 – “Florent delivers a pleasant guitar driven adult contemporary rock song with a decent guitar solo. However, “Vajze” comes in at a whopping 4 and a half minutes, but it is hard to see where the 90 seconds of fat to be trimmed comes from. As a 4:25 song it has a nice flow and is well-paced but trim it down to a 3-minute song with the solo included, it will feel rushed. It also lacks a distinctive hook that an ESC fan can latch onto.”

Melanie – 3 – “This sounds like a flower that blossoms. A very slowly blossoming of a flower to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I really love the serene feeling the beat is giving me, but the song is going nowhere. It has a little built in it, so I expected an epic blossoming. Unfortunately, it never gave me that and I have the feeling that the flower is still a bulb. Maybe it will blossom on stage, but for now it’s a no for me.”

Roy – 1 – “The little piano riff in the beginning was a lovely start at first, but then they decided that it should be throughout the entire song. It nearly feels like a sabotage to their own song. The riff is there always, ALWAYS…. It is so up front that you can’t even focus on the rest of the song and it is so so annoying. It feels like it never lets me go, never lets me at ease. While making dinner it will haunt me, while brushing my teeth it will haunt me, while trying to go to sleep it will haunt me and I will probably be having nightmares about this piano pattern being there always! ALWAYS!!!! Completely ruins this song for me, I’m sorry…”

Sean – 6 – “Coldplay stadium rock-lite from Florent, which is at the very least a departure from normal FiK programming. There are some nice elements to this and it’ll work well life, but it’s a bit too light and airy for my tastes, and the liberal use of electrical guitar isn’t really fooling anybody.”

Total = 31.5 (Avg. 5.3)

 

Franc Koruni – E morën botën

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYdVKT7Hick[/embedyt]

Boris – 7 – “Ah, it’s time for *that* sort of entry 75% of the ESC audience won’t understand but will be hilarious live for those with a good sense of humour. Can’t wait for this to break the tux/gown-wearing stiffness of semifinal night like a spike-studded wrecking ball. <3”

Connor – 4.5 – “One thing I’m noticing is that there’s a lot of snap tracks this year in FiK, but sadly the snaps couldn’t cover up the holes in this entry. I feel like this track needed to spend just a bit more time in the studio, as it’s missing some elements and balance – like the moving ostinato part in the chorus is completely covered up by other track elements. There were some good ideas, but it seems there’s 2 or 3 songs sewn together for a non-cohesive product.”

James – 8.5 – “This song exudes cool. From Franc’s deep vocals to the dead simple yet effective guitar riff and trumpet, and then some Eastern-like percussive elements thrown in, this is a groovy and fun entry. And then Franc hits some high notes! Dare I say this is Fine Young Cannibals given an Albanian folk makeover in 2020? This song is hard to pin down, but it’s well done, I enjoy it, and regardless of FiK result, I will keep an eye on Franc’s career.” James

Melanie – 6 – “E Mören botën is a perfect example of a mismatch. I really love this song. It really brings some kind of energy with it and the saxophone adds this feeling. Sadly, the voice of Franc is bringing this song down. His very low voice just don’t fit at all with the feeling I get from the beat. It even makes this song a little bit campy. And I don’t think that that’s the way you want to go on the Eurovision stage. (We know that only Serhat can pull that off!)”

Roy – 3.5 – “This song starts off really funky and promising and Franc has an interesting vocal sound that could go interesting places. Unfortunately they decide to not ever really go anywhere with it.. The chorus is a tad lacklustre and I struggle to remember this song when thinking back about the entire selection. It will have some decent staging potential and I am really curious to see what they will do with this in that department!”

Sean – 7.5 – “Wow, where has this come from? This is certainly a live wire. The chorus is interesting and catchy and I’m liking to rap-like vocals from Franc Koruni. The springy production is fun too – this one is putting a smile on my face! Really keen to see how this one unfolds on stage, and I feel like this could be one to stick in the mind when it comes to voting.”

Total = 37 (Avg. 6.2)

 

Gigliola Haveriku – E Lirë

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT3wjZOt-pM[/embedyt]

Boris – 6.5 – “Albania tries… modern? (well the modern of seven years ago, but that’s like inventing the future by FiK standards). Discovering dubstep a full eight years after the actual dubstep contest <3 Like all vocal-heavy entries, the entirity of “E lir딑s efficacy depends on how good and engaging Gigiola is during the live, so it’s hard to give an apt judgment from just the studio version. Could be good, could be a clunker, but if it’s the latter it’s likely not taking up a slot in the finale either way.”

Connor – 9 – “I have listened to this song the most out of any of the FiK entries, and I think it’s because it reminds me so much of Shaj last year. A female ballad that has emotion, a simple track, and allows Gigliola to just shine. This would definitely need some work should it win, but I think there’s definitely a pathway to victory for her in FiK this year. Personally, I would love to see that happen.”

James – 6 – “This a slick entry, no doubt, but lacks both energy and an identity of its own to stand out. Gigliola is a great singer and for all the production tricks they throw at us (dubstep like effects and fake strings galore), this song rarely threatens a pace above pedestrian. And it doesn’t really have a memorable hook. I’m sure a few out there will proclaim, “ohmagerd, there’s 57 tracks layered on top of each other,” but it doesn’t add up to a song of note. And as with Gigliola’s genre choice of EDM circa 2010, her bangs went away like Pauley Perette’s from NCIS years ago.”

Melanie – 8 – “E Lirë is definitely the biggest surprise of this line-up. Who would ever expect to hear an this kind of electronic experimental song in Festivali I Kenges. The beat really compliments her voice in a good way. I only have the feeling that this song really needs a revamp to make it more powerful. Curious how they going to stage this song, because that really can make it or break it. But definitely don’t rule her out for the win yet!”

Roy – 7 – “The creator of Frankenstein took another visit to Albania and stumbled upon this song. It starts off as a building ballad that is bound to explode, or go back to the standard middling verse. Then it decides to take the maddest plottwist of Festival I Kënges this year and it goes in a chillstep breakdown spread out over the entirety of the second verse. Then at the second chorus they decide to add more bpm and the structure of some Drum n Bass. Such an oddball, but I kind of really like it.. I mean, it has Drum n Bass in it, it’s my favourite music genre, at that point you are already 1-0 up!”

Sean – 6 – “Dubstep? That is like, so 2011! “E lire” isn’t too offensive of a listen but the shoehorned dubstep breakdown in the second verse is jarring and doesn’t do much to keep me intrigued. One thing for sure is Gigliola has a great vocal and so this could be one of the ones to come alive on stage.”

Total = 42.5 (Avg. 7.1)

 

Gjergj Kacinari – Më jep jetë

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY5iaPrA99k[/embedyt]

Boris – 6 – “Pet theory: Gjergj is Denberel Oorzhak’s masked singer costume. Comically deep voices <3 Yes, once the song gets going it actually stops being that way and descents into Generic Albanian Christ-Rock territory, but it made me smile and that’s a lot in these dank Corona times.”

Connor – 5.5 – “Well I have to admit, I was not expecting those bass notes to come out of his body based off the promotional picture, but my goodness what talent! For those who aren’t basses or baritones, you don’t understand how hard it can be hit low notes with clarity but he does them very well. Overall this song isn’t a standout, but they did a good job of making his voice the star of the track – so good job there. The back 1/3rd of the song is definitely my favorite part.”

James – 9 – “I do love Gjergj’s deep and croaky vocals, like he’s trying to be a young Albanian Leonard Cohen. And with the strings and percussion coming in gradually, this reminds of a Balkan take on Eythor Ingi’s masterpiece “Eg a Lif” (appropriate since “Më Jep Jetë” means “Give Me Life”). And the song structure is similar to “Eg a Lif,” starting soft and slow before building to a grand explosion of orchestra and drums and – in this song’s case – rock guitar after the second verse. Albania does ballads really well, but this is a twist on their usual formula well worth considering.”

Melanie – 2 – “This is definitely not my cup of tea. The build in the song is nice, but I’m having the feeling that he’s trying too hard to express his emotions. I’m just not feeling it at all and it just feels very fake for me. In contrast to that, I really love his voice and I would like to see him back next year with a song that suits him better.”

Roy – 7 – “This man’s voice is so incredibly interesting and unique. It is interesting to see the melody and his voice progress throughout this song. They kind of do the opposite things, yet also the same. He starts very dark with his voice and the pitch goes higher and higher. The backing track builds and builds and builds as well. It is perhaps not the song that is the most memorable of all, but I feel like this is highly underrated and I could actually see this being a really cool moment on the stage and it could do better than a lot of others expect it to do!”

Sean – 5 – “Gjergj’s raspy vocals should lend themselves to a way more powerful song than this, as I feel he should be going full energy. Unfortunately, “Më jep jetë” gives more of a whimper, and by the time I’ve finished it’s not really hooking in my mind. Thumbs up for the performer, not sure on the song!”

Total = 34.5 (Avg. 5.8)

 

So what does this do the scoreboard according to us? Let’s find out:

  1. Era Russi – Zjarri Im  – 47 
  2. Fatos Shabani – Ty – 45.5
  3. Gigliola Haveriku – E Lirë – 42.5
  4. Enxhi Nasufi – Njësoj – 42
  5. Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 41
  6. Franc Koruni – E morën botën – 37
  7. Evi Reçi – Tjerr – 37
  8. Agim Poshka – Vendi im – 36
  9. Gjergj Kacinari – Më jep jetë – 34.5
  10. Erik Lloshi – Jo – 32.5
  11. Devis Xherahu – Peng – 32.5
  12. Florent Abrashi – Vajzë – 31.5
  13. Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri – 26

As you can see, the team have chosen Era Russi’s song as being the best out of the first half! Come back soon to find out if she can hold on to her first place or if she gets knocked off her pedistool!

What do #YOU think of the first half of Albania’s selection this year? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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  1. […] of tonight’s show, see what our team thought of the songs in our reviews HERE and HERE. #YOU can also check out our editor-in-chief Matt’s opinions of the entries in the […]

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